Singaporean 'not paid' to help Kasparov's bid to be world chess chief

The contract between Mr Garry Kasparov (left) and Mr Ignatius Leong  hangs upon Mr Kasparov winning the Fide election in August.
The contract between Mr Garry Kasparov (left) and Mr Ignatius Leong hangs upon Mr Kasparov winning the Fide election in August.PHOTOS: AFP, SINGAPORE CHESS FEDERATION
The contract between Mr Garry Kasparov (left) and Mr Ignatius Leong  hangs upon Mr Kasparov winning the Fide election in August.
The contract between Mr Garry Kasparov (left) and Mr Ignatius Leong hangs upon Mr Kasparov winning the Fide election in August.PHOTOS: AFP, SINGAPORE CHESS FEDERATION

World Chess Federation (Fide) presidential hopeful Garry Kasparov yesterday released previously confidential documents to counter claims that financial sweeteners were offered directly to a Singaporean to help his election campaign.

While Singapore Chess Federation president Ignatius Leong confirmed he would help garner votes for the Russian grandmaster, a former world champion, he denied being paid directly for it.

"I get nothing from all this - I'm just doing it for the good of the game in our region," he told The Sunday Times yesterday.

He has been an influential Asian chess figure since the 1980s, and is Fide's general secretary under its long-time president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is running for re-election.

A New York Times article last week said Mr Leong had switched sides to help Mr Kasparov's bid and claimed that, from a draft agreement it obtained, he would receive US$500,000 (S$640,000) to help secure votes from this region.

However, there was no mention of this payment in the contract published on Mr Kasparov's website yesterday.

Instead, the agreement promises to pay US$250,000 annually for four years to the Asean Chess Academy, an organisation Mr Leong founded and owns, which teaches children chess.

The payments will come through a newly-created foundation bearing Mr Kasparov's name.

It was also agreed that if Mr Kasparov is elected president of the world body, a new Fide office will be opened in Singapore to be run by Mr Leong and for which he will be paid an undisclosed amount.

The contract will be voided if Mr Kasparov fails in his bid at the election, to be held in August in Tromso, Norway.

Mr Leong, 57, a full-time chess businessman, said he did not agree with certain points during discussions with Mr Kasparov and "that's why we did a second, final contract, which is different from the first draft".

Charges of corruption, bribery and vote buying have been rumoured in the world body for decades.

Mr Ilyumzhinov, a businessman who amassed a fortune after the fall of the Soviet Union, is well-known for his eccentricities.

He has said that chess was invented by extraterrestrials, and claimed to have been abducted by aliens in yellow spacesuits.

The Fide president has also demanded that Mr Leong step down immediately as general secretary because of his deal with challenger Mr Kasparov, but Mr Leong has rejected that request.

"He says it's a serious ethical issue and I've damaged Fide's reputation," said Mr Leong. "He has been accused of many things too and hasn't resigned - why should I step down then?"

He insisted that he has not done anything wrong. Under the terms of the contract with Mr Kasparov, Mr Leong is "responsible for delivering a minimum of 10 + 1 votes from his region, with the effort to deliver 15 votes (not counting China)".

If he is successful in lining up more than 15 votes, "the parties will negotiate the financial terms separately and in good faith".

Mr Leong said: "There is nothing wrong with that - the new regime, if elected, has planned many initiatives and we're looking for friendly nations in the Asia-Pacific to achieve our goals."